Criminal justice reform on Douglas County’s 2019 legislative wish list

photo by: Journal-World Graphic

The Douglas County Commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

The Douglas County Commission will consider Wednesday supporting a platform in 2019 that calls on the Kansas Legislature to start looking at comprehensive criminal justice reform.

In a memo to commissioners, Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug wrote that voter dissatisfaction with alternatives to harsh sentencing guidelines and a desire for additional alternatives to incarceration contributed to the defeat in May of Proposition 1 and the $44 million jail expansion it would have funded. The defeat of the measure, coupled with current state sentencing mandates, has made for an “intolerable” situation for the county, which now averages 43 more inmates daily than the county jail’s 187-bed capacity, Weinaug wrote.

“We therefore ask our legislative delegation to ask the Legislature to engage in a comprehensive initiative to review all aspects of sentencing guidelines, and consider all possible criminal justice reforms that might produce lower incarceration rates and greater possibilities of reducing recidivism for those who are jailed and imprisoned,” Weinaug wrote.

Other legislative items that Weinaug recommended the county support included:

• An increase in the amount of time those in a behavioral health crisis can be hospitalized involuntarily, from 24 hours to 72 hours.

• A new state transportation plan, which includes the expansion of Kansas Highway 10’s west leg to four lanes. Moreover, Weinaug recommended the county request that some K-10 improvements, such as a new interchange at Wakarusa Drive, be completed as soon as possible and not be delayed until construction starts on the entire west leg project.

• Expansion of Medicaid as allowed in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In other business, the County Commission will:

• Consider agreements with Forensic Medical Holdings and to retain Dr. Altaf Hossain for county coroner services for 2019. The agreements establish the rate for autopsies at $1,650 and death scene investigations at $300.

• Consider approval of two permits for RD Johnson LLC for its property at 1600 North 1250 Road, a site just south of Kansas Highway 10 and immediately southeast of Lawrence. The first permit is for a one-year temporary business permit to burn tree limbs and brush brought to the site. In a report recommending approval, Tonya Voigt, Douglas County planning and zoning coordinator, wrote that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has approved RD Johnson’s application to conduct open burning at the site. Among the permit’s conditions are that burns must be started during daylight hours and can’t be started when winds exceed 15 mph.

The other RD Johnson request is for a conditional use permit to operate a clean construction material landfill and to remove topsoil at the 44-acre site.

Lawrence-Douglas County planning staff found the application compatible with surrounding land uses, provided RD Johnson enters into an agreement with Wakarusa Township to repair any damage trucks cause to North 1250 Road when accessing the landfill.

The County Commission will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. To view a complete agenda, visit


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